Revenue officials, along with the police, evicted 30 families and destroyed their homes for the Anantagiri reservoir project on Sunday night, amid the coronavirus lockdown.

Evicted during lockdown Telangana villagers forced out for reservoir projectImage: By arrangement
news Human rights Thursday, April 23, 2020 - 12:37

As residents in Kochaguttapalli village, Siddipet district retired to bed on Sunday night, they awoke to a rude shock. Revenue officials of the Telangana government, along with the police, had arrived at their doorstep — amid the nationwide lockdown, in the middle of the night — to evict 30 families and destroy their homes.

“We pleaded with them for time till morning so that we could go and get our stray animals. But they put all our luggage and material in vans, damaging them,” recounts Ramanaji, a resident of the village in Chinnakodur Mandal.

For over three years, the villagers have been battling authorities over their land, which is being sought for the Anantagiri (Annapurna) Project, a 3.5 tmc feet reservoir that would potentially submerge their village. Located between the two districts, the project to fill the reservoir with water from the Godavari river impacts Anantagiri in Rajanna-Siricilla and Kochaguttapalli and Chelukaluripalli villages in Siddipet. 

And on Sunday, as many as 30 families were evicted by officials with no prior notice. Most of the families belong to Dalit communities, while some are Reddys. All of them are small scale farmers who owned small pieces of land. 

Speaking to TNM, Nagaraju T, a resident of Kochaguttapalli says, “Our Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) was not settled. Yet, they forcefully evicted us from our own homes without even telling us. They just came here, took our phones, packed everything in a hasty manner and dumped us at the R&R Colony in Siddipet.”

He adds, “Everything was over in an hour. They just landed us at the R&R Colony where there are not even basic facilities. We even asked them to give us time till morning, but they didn't hear us.”

Ramanaji alleges that the officials, inconsiderate of the presence of women and young children in the midst, went ahead with destruction indiscriminately. He says, “The court had earlier stated that the government should evict us only after paying off our compensation. They have taken advantage of the prevailing (COVID-19) situation and conducted the destruction in the middle of the night.”

Lakshmi Komugala, another resident, alleges that her house was destroyed after officials forcefully shoved aside her sister who was the only person at home.

“We went to Siddipet hospital to look after our mother. By the time I returned, I only saw debris  to cry. They destroyed our modest dhaba and gave a double-room house at the R&R Colony. How can three-four families adjust in one house?” asks Lakshmi.

She further alleges that officials behaved inhumanely by disregarding the case pending in the Telangana High Court. 

“It is unfair on the part of the officials to render us homeless at a time like this, when there is fear of coronavirus,” she says.

The families point out that they had not been treated with dignity, despite sacrificing their lands and homes for the reservoir project. 

Revenue officials later claimed that the destruction was done since they had consent from ‘most’ of the affected families. 

Mangavva, along with several fellow residents, has moved the High Court, alleging that revenue officials and the police evicted them after taking ‘forced consent’ with no compensation provided. 

However, on Wednesday, the counsel appearing for the state government, told the court that the residents had been placed at a rehabilitation colony with 'necessary facilities'.

A division Bench comprising Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice A Abhishek Reddy directed the Siddipet Collector to submit a detailed report by April 24 on the allegations of the affected families.

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